Opposition lawmakers reject Fariñas call to exempt them from traffic rules
Lawmakers from the opposition on Tuesday shot down the proposal of majority leader Rudy Fariñas that representatives be exempted from minor traffic violations to allow them to attend sessions in Congress.
In a statement, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman called Fariñas’ proposal “uncalled for,” adding that it sends a “wrong signal” that there is no speed limit for representatives on their way to work.
“To my knowledge, no representative has been detained or arrested for a traffic violation and no incumbent has asked for any immunity from arrest or detention for a traffic infraction. The apparent off-the-cuff invocation of constitutional immunity from arrest for offenses punishable with imprisonment of not more than six years is uncalled for,” Lagman said.
“It sends the wrong message that there is no speed limit for representatives during session days,” he added.
Lagman said the “parliamentary immunity” Fariñas said that lawmakers enjoy “does not extend to their drivers or to the security back-up of some of them.”
In a separate statement, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said giving immunity to lawmakers would only create “double standard” in the implementation of the country’s laws.
“Lalo nitong patitingkarin na may ibang batas para sa may kapangyarihan at sa karaniwang tao. Dapat ay maging huwaran ang mga mambabatas para tuparin ang mga ito (This will only highlight that there is a separate law between the people in power and ordinary people),” Zarate said.
Zarate said employees of Congress commute and brave the traffic every session day to go to work, and yet lawmakers enjoy the immunity of being spared from traffic violations.
“Mga simpleng empleyado o kawani o maging mga mambabatas o matataas na opisyal ay lahat apektado talaga sa malalang traffic. Lahat ay may mga mahalaga ring gawain sa araw-araw na sasabak sila sa daang matrapik, kaya mas dapat ay wala ng napapaboran pa (Simple employees or those lawmakers and ranking officials, everyone is affected by the worsening traffic situation. Everybody has important things to do and everybody braves the heavy traffic on the road. There should be no exception),” Zarate said.
During the House transportation committee hearing on Monday, Fariñas called on authorities to give lawmakers immunity from traffic violations, citing the 1987 Constitution which reads that: “A Senator or Member of the House of Representatives shall, in all offenses punishable by not more than six years imprisonment, be privileged from arrest while the Congress is in session.”
Fariñas said under House rules, an errant lawmaker who was given reprieve of this traffic violation may be surrendered by the Speaker to authorities only after the session.
The majority leader said there is no need for traffic authorities to take the lawmaker to prison for the traffic violation, which would unduly prevent the lawmaker from performing his or her mandate of attending the 4 p.m. sessions from Mondays to Wednesdays.
Fariñas later clarified that members of Congress are not immune when Congress is not in session. /jpv
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